About 45 people gathered in Goldstein Auditorium on the Syracuse University Campus Wednesday afternoon to remember the lives of people with disabilities that were cut short by their caregivers. They took part in Freshman Priya Penner helped to organize the vigil to commemorate the Disability Day of Mourning.
“This is wrong. It's not OK to murder anybody, but especially people with disabilities, because I guess we are viewed as less than, because we are viewed as.. I don't even know. I don't understand, honestly, why people think this is ok.”
The vigils held across the nation are meant to remember those lost and remind the world of the value their lives had. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network began the national vigil initiative 5 years ago. Penner, who uses a wheelchair, had participated in these vigils before attending Syracuse.
“I could be dead. I couldn't be here right now. That is a very real possibility for me I am supremely lucky with the parents and family that I have, so doing this is very important to me. It has a very personal impact.”
Syracuse student Tori Cedar shared her thoughts following the reading of the names of the deceased.
“They had every right to be here, just as we are living each and every day, but, for some reason, their lives were taken from them.”
Daniel Heumann class of ’91 was left a T-5 paraplegic after a car crash when he was 18 years old. He now works as a consultant for Campus Framework Committee with the goal of making the Syracuse campus one of the most accessible in the nation.
“Being somebody who's been in a chair for the last 32 years, I understand how vulnerable people with disabilities are, and how important it is that we value the life of people with disabilities.”
The vigil was co-sponsored by eight organizations both on and off campus and takes place every year on March 1st.